Vladimir Milov: The Legal Results

Below is an exclusive translation of an important article by Vladimir Milov published in Vedomosti today. The Legal Results By Vladimir Milov Vedomosti, October 31, 2007 One of the important results of the Putin’s presidency is a menacing degradation of legal institutions in Russia, a total loss of any role that law has had in the life of the Russian society. It may sound strange, since Putin and many people from his entourage have a legal educational background and are fond of showing it off. As a colleague from the Council of Europe once told me, “I think Putin is at heart a legalist, since he has an education in law”. The fact that the leaders of a country have legal educational background does not guaranty that they would be adherents to law. As Putin put it in his first address to the Federal Assembly in 2000, “We insist on the single type of dictatorship – the dictatorship of law”. In his 2002 parliamentary address, he also named “Maturing of the rule of law” as one of his principle aims. After several years, the phrases related to the creation of the rule of law and the dictatorship of law have disappeared from the official lexicon. The YUKOS case has become the apotheosis of the destruction and discrediting of the Russian legal system. The case has launched the odious “tax terror”, (which, in practice, is based on a replacement of the presumption of a lawful conduct of a taxpayer with the presumption of guilt). The case also showed full dependency of the courts on the executive. As soon as YUKOS assets passed from one owner to the other, the courts at once reconsidered their previous decisions on “tax debts”. The judicial reform is a total failure. Russia has gained a dubious leadership as far as the number of application to the Strasburg human rights court is concerned. Note that the Russian State has lost to its own citizens more than 90% of cases there. The role of legal rules as such in the life of the Russian society has diminished. Dependence of judiciary has allowed to interpret vague laws in the interests of the executive. The newly created pro-president majority in the State Duma afforded unlimited possibilities to change laws at whim according to current needs. Laws have lost their fundamental systemic role in favor of informal arrangements. A special law limiting access of foreign investors to strategic areas of economy has still not been adopted. Despite this fact, the authorities have been limiting the foreign access at will. They simply do not need the law, since in reality informal mechanisms determine everything. It is not that Russia just failed to create a rule of law state. During the Putin presidency, informal institutions totally triumphed over legal ones. In general, the doubts as to constitutionality of Putin’s activities, in my mind, concentrate on his attempt to liquidate the fundamental constitutional principle of division of powers – through liquidation of independence of the parliament and the judiciary. This constitutes a far more serious violation of the letter and the spirit of the Constitution then, for instance, the liquidation of the direct elections of regional governors or a possible prolongation of Putin’s presidential term.